Where and When Does Netflix’s Ripley Take Place?

Netflix’s ‘Ripley’ takes the audience into the twisted mind of Tom Ripley (played by Andrew Scott) and his vicious actions that stem from his desire to lead a life of luxury. It begins with an unexpected offer he receives from a wealthy man who wants Tom to convince his son, Dickie, to come back home. Seeing no reason to miss the opportunity of a lifetime, Tom decides to take up the task, even though he has never really met Dickie.

Once Tom meets Dickie, he becomes enamored with his lifestyle, but when his new life is threatened, he takes one drastic action after another. With all the things that he does, it feels impossible for him to get away with it. The time and the place he is in become his co-conspirators and help him in unexpected ways. The setting plays an important role in Ripley’s story. SPOILERS AHEAD

The Story of Tom Ripley is Set in the 60s

Image Credit: Lorenzo Sisti/NETFLIX

If Tom Ripley had existed in today’s world, his crimes would have taken a radically different form. For one, he wouldn’t have the luxury to commit a crime and expect to get away with it by hiding it abysmally. However, all the technology and forensic science that would help the detectives today catch Tom Ripley didn’t exist or wasn’t as effective back in the 1960s, when the story takes place.

‘Ripley’ is the adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel, ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley,’ first published in 1955. Its early 50s setting gives more grounds for its story to feel believable to the audience. The Netflix series tweaks the timeline by almost a decade and sets the story in 1960 and 1961, with the events unfolding over the course of a few months.

The events begin with Ripley in New York in the summer of 1960 when he is approached by Herbert Greenleaf, who mistakes Ripley for one of Dickie’s friends. A desperate Mr. Greenleaf hires Ripley to bring Dickie back home. He hopes that his son will listen to one of his friends and establish better communication with his family, eventually deciding to come back home. This lack of communication between the members of the Greenleaf family probably wouldn’t have come off as convincingly in contemporary times. But for Ripley in the 60s, it becomes a blessing.

Ripley further uses the limitations of the technology of his times to make everyone think that Dickie is alive when he has been dead for a couple of months before people start asking questions and knocking on Ripley’s door to find out what really happened. The further twists and turns make things even more convoluted, playing everything in Ripley’s favor.

Ripley’s Unexpected Job Takes Him to Italy

Image Credit: Philippe Antonello/NETFLIX

The story of Tom Ripley begins in New York, where he scams people into paying him. But it doesn’t do much for him, and he longs to escape his miserable life. At this time, when he receives the offer to go to Italy, all expenses paid, it feels like a lifeline thrown at him. He is sent to Atrani on the Amalfi Coast, where Dickie Greenleaf has been hiding away from his family. As Ripley insinuates himself into Dickie’s life, he grows to love the finer things that a wealthy Dickie enjoys.

Eventually, Ripley’s obsession with Dickie’s lifestyle morphs into a desire to become Dickie himself. The tragic turn of events leads to the loss of Dickie’s life in San Remo, following which Ripley quickly ditches Atrani and goes to Rome. He hopes to hide out there long enough for the matter to settle down, but Dickie’s friends become suspicious of his strange silence and his sudden absence. Despite his love for Rome, Ripley is forced to pack his bags and move to Venice, where he settles into a lavish house, waiting for the whole matter to die down. It becomes clear by the end that it is his intention to stay in Europe and not go back to America now that he finally has what he wants.

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